Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Preparing my Observation Hive

Now that I know I have a Queen in a mating box I just have to decide what to do with her! Well I have now decided; she's going into my Observation Hive.

I took two frames of capped brood from the hive that is located next to the mating box and put them in the OH. Tomorrow I'll put my new Queen (and her two or three frames of brood) in with the bees that have stayed with the OH. I'm hoping the nurse bees that don't go back to the parent hive will happily accept their new queen.

I'll try and develop the OH into a nuc that I can use later on, once its done a tour of the local schools!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bees 1 : Owen 0

Some excellent news!

Lets just hope the UK government abides by the ruling!


A very helpful summary of the issues being faced by the Honey Bee.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Earth Day at Kirkwood Farmers Market.

What a way to end an excellent week of beekeeping! Yes, Earth Day was last week but here in Kirkwood they held their own local version yesterday. Sadly it was wet and cold, but surprisingly well attended!

Walter from Cornucopia (the local cook shop that stocks some of my honey) asked if I'd like to have a stall. I jumped at the chance! I had no honey to sell but I love taking my observation hive places.

But it's been so cold lately and the hives are so far behind (developmentally) that I wasn't sure if I could find enough frames of brood etc. to full the observation hive. However, I had a brainwave! I sealed off the nuc below the observation window and decided to put in just a single frame of bees from my mating box. You'll remember the queens in these boxes had died or been killed off. I pulled a frame from one side of the box and thought no more of it.

I generated some interest at the market, which is actually quite easy when you have a hive of bees on display. People are always so interested and know quite a bit about the issues bees are currently facing, so it's nice to be able to talk about what is being done locally to help maintain bee populations.

I kept telling people that the frame was just bees and a bit of maturing brood, until one 9yr old girl said she saw the Queen. No way! But she was spot on! Clear as day, there was a Queen, quite black with a black shiny saddle on her thorax on the frame. She'd been busy too, lots of eggs and larvae were on the frame and we alao saw her laying. She was not only recently hatched, but mated too!

What had happened? This is my hypothesis. First the timeline: On 5 April I pulled one frame of eggs and brood from a hive at home and from the gardens. On 6 April I added new queens purchased from the club to these frames in the mating box. On 13 April I found the queens had died or been killed and I saw queen cells being raised on one side of the mating box. Finally, yesterday, 27 April, I had a new laying queen.

I'm assuming the bees started to raise a queen almost immediately after the frame was removed from the donor hive. One of these queen cells could therefore have been formed around a 3-day old egg. So the egg could have been laid on 3 April. This queen should then have hatched 16 days later, on 19 April. Now Queen cells are capped after 10 days so the cells I saw could have just been capped when I saw them. It's been 7 days since the queen hatched and I believe its perfectly possible that she took her maiden flight, got mated and started laying within a week of hatching. Quick, but not unusual!

My only worry now is did her trip to the cold day at the market upset her? And if not, what do I do with her? Well, I think I will split one of my hives in a couple of weeks time and I'll install her (or should that be invest her?) as the new Queen.

It's certainly been interesting this week!

Friday, April 26, 2013


I checked the "swarmed" hive at the gardens yesterday. No sign of any brood or eggs so I reasoned they were Queenless still. It's nearly 2 weeks since I was in and found what I assumed was a post-swarm hive. So what to do now?

I put in a call to a couple of folks and I got a lead to a swarm of bees that was on Craigslist. Quite how they got Internet connectivity I don't know; that's another avenue to explore I guess! Anyway the swarm of bees was located on the ground at a house 20 mins from home.

I called the home owner last night and arranged to look this morning. It looked like rain so I went out without being able to check if they were still there. But they were, still on the ground.

Now this is the first swarm I have ever caught. I was a bit nervous, but the bees were every bit as docile as you're told a swarm should be. I simply picked them up and put them in the new "Pershing" box I have. My apologies to those (bees and humans) that didn't make the trip!

So once in the box I drove them to the gardens and installed/combined them with the existing hive. I dumped the swarm in a new box with drawn comb, put a sheet of newspaper on top and then placed the Queenless hive on top of this. I hope they will get along together and get cracking with all the nectar that's about to explode from the trees and flowers (I hope). I will check to see how they are on Sunday and remove one if the deep boxes so I get back down to 2.

I don't know if there was a queen in the swarm, and I don't know if there was a queen in the "Queenless hive. I guess if both are there there'll be a fight!

It was an excellent first swarm experience! Can't wait to do it again!

Swarm on the ground
Into the "Pershing" box!

At the Gardens

Combined with the "Queenless" hive.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Eye off the ball!

Lovely weather here today! So I managed to get to look at the garden bees. And I got another surprise!

One hive (the one that came through the winter) has 2 capped Queen Cells in it! So I think the hive has swarmed - already - Queen Cells and fewer bees in it than I might have expected!

Oh well! I'll let these cells develop and see what happens. Can't help thinking I took my eye off the ball somewhat with this hive.

The other hive is in good shape. Saw the Queen in the top brood box and so did a reversal. With luck this might deal with any urge they have to swarm!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Well, that wasn't planned!

Last week (April 26) I took delivery of 3 Queen bees from the Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association. I thought it was way too early to get queens (well certainly too early to make splits) as its been so cold here this winter. But there's not much that can be done if everything is firing in Louisiana and there are queens there ready to shipped out!
The 3 Queens.
Anyway, I took the queens and installed them the same day. One went into a weak hive, together with some eggs and brood from an adjacent stronger hive (I had already disposed of the resident queen the previous day). The other two Queens I put in a mating box along with frames of brood/eggs I took from the strong hive in my back yard and from a hive I have at the botanical gardens. No worries!

The strong hive in my Back Yard
I checked on the mating box on Wednesday; the candy plugs in the queen cages had been eaten away. I therefore assumed the queens had been released. So all good, right?

Wrong! I checked the hives this morning. One side of the mating box is raising Queen Cells! (can you spot one?) So that means the Queen in that side is dead! I found the other Queen dead inside her cage!

Spot the Queen Cell!

The dead Queen!
So that was a waste of time! Still, at least the Queen in the weak hive is alive! I found her still in her cage!  She hadn't been able to find her way out. She doesn't sound too clever to me!  All in all it wasn't a very encouraging start! But you have to look on the bright side...

1. I'm now raising my own queens which is actually what I wanted to do in the first place!

2. The hive in my back yard is nice and strong and it was no problem taking brood and eggs from it.

3. The single surviving queen walked out of the cage and onto a frame in the weak hive without being assaulted by the other bees!

I have hope!